Modesty of the Tongue


Modesty comes in more than just our physical appearance. Our entire bodies, personalities, and thoughts should emanate modesty.

* Bilal and Basit are playing basketball in the local masjid’s gymnasium.  Bilal begins swearing as his team loses the game.  It doesn’t stop even when the Adhan for Maghrib Salaat begins.

* When her grandparents come over for dinner one day, little Ayesha gets her dance moves on.  She begins singing, “I’m sexy and I know it,” while her parents nervously hush her down.

* Nasreen often guards her tongue around the house, but lately her mother is getting on her nerves. “You’re just so freaking stupid, Mom!  How can you embarrass me in front of my friends like that? I can’t stand you anymore.  I hate you!”

One the most admirable Sahaba, Umar radi Allahu anhu said, “I looked at all friends and did not find a better friend than safeguarding the tongue.”

It seems straightforward enough.  From day one, we are told to not talk back to our elders and to be polite when speaking.  In class, we are disciplined to raise our hand before talking.  We know that we should not use vulgar language—not just because we are Muslims but because we are humans with moral values.

And yet, some people don’t even have to step out of the house to listen to some of the crudest language.  It can come from parents, siblings, and the television.  Step out of the home and you hear it from friends, the so-called “cool” people, and even from colleagues.

What should be evident is the contradiction.  Take a hijabi for example.  Masha’Allah, she is dressed modestly and one would expect that the words she speaks are sweet and full of humility also, at least while she is conversing in public.  Instead, if you hear a hijabi using crude language, it doesn’t click.  What you see does not match what you hear.  Hijabi or not, people know when some words should not be spoken.

It is certainly not as easy as it looks.  When we are so immersed in such a culture and we have to live in it on a daily basis, it is only natural for the language to slip out on our own tongues.  The shame does not seep in when a sister use words like “sexy” with her Muslim brother or when we verbally lash out on our parents.

But don’t forget that one day, your tongue will testify for you or against you.  It’s a wise saying, “Think twice before you speak.”  It will only get easier and easier if you habituate yourself to refrain from using vulgar and rude language.  The sweetness of your tongue will ease out before you know it.

As with everything else Allah gives us with His infinite Mercy, there is a moment of opportunity.  Take this chance to shield your ears, to perform Dhikr as often as you can.  Tell your fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, even when it seems rude or intrusive, that they should avoid using crude language.

And take this opportunity to click your tongue into place and promise to safeguard it so that one day it will vouch for you instead of bearing witness against you.